November 30, 2001

Got quite a bit of coding done yesterday. First, I worked on the address bar problem in Scope again and came to the conclusion that the IEAddress component that I was using was the culprit for the erratic behaviour that I was seeing. I even wrote a testbed application that simply had just that one component on it and it was still behaving the same way that it did in Scope. I took a look at the source and found at least a couple of places which contributed to the problem but wasn’t sure that removing those lines of code was the best option … so, I decided to write a component of my own :p The IEAddress component was based on the Delphi ComboBox component and so was doing a lot of work to support the inclusion of icons in the combobox – I decided to go with the ComboBoxEx component (which is there in Delphi 6.0 but I’m not sure whether it was there from 5.0 downwards …) and save myself the trouble of handling the icon drawing and stuff. In the end, I ended up with a component which did what I wanted and had a few customized features just for Scope. If you are interested to see the current progress (or are really not happy with the address bar <g>), you can find a build here – but be warned, this is very early code still and while I am using the same build, I can fix problems if I see them – you can’t :p

jugg checked out the new build and pointed out the fact that you couldn’t use TAB while in the auto-suggest dropdown for the address bar. I’d noticed the option in the SHAutocomplete API call and had been intending to add it myself but had forgotten … I did try it now but found that it didn’t seem to work under Delphi – bummer :-( I want to do some further investigating to make sure that it doesn’t work under Delphi and it is not something that I’m missing. Plus, I want to look into the problems that the latest build seems to have with the latest release of Mozilla – that should keep me busy :-)

My coding efforts were not over yesterday though :p I had noticed that typing in Blog seemed to be getting a bit slower – at least for me. I wasn’t sure whether this was the live-spellchecking in the later versions of Blog or the fact that I had so many entries in Blog that it was slowing down (since I’ve been posting since around March 2001, mine has to be the biggest blog around that uses Blog :p) I went on the latter hypothesis and did some code to improve the way records are selected in Blog in case it was the filtering that was at fault but today I see that Blog still seems to be sluggish. I need to look into this a bit further as well – probably the easiest thing would be to simply turn off live-spellchecking and see if that helps. The problem is that the performance difference is not always noticeable and so it might all be just subjective opinion …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:07 am  |  5 Comments

November 29, 2001

Ugh .. it’s raining outside and I hate driving on days like this – it looks like something out of a horror movie at times :p Anyway, I got quite a bit done on Scope yesterday. I did figure out how to get through all the pre-compilation problems I had with Scope and got it to a state where I could begin work on it again. I had tried my existing version of Scope with Mozilla 0.9.6 and it seemed to work fine but once I recompiled Scope with the new type library for Mozilla 0.9.6, it began crashing consistently :p I still haven’t looked into the cause of the crashes though since I will need to do some extensive debugging and I don’t have the time to do so during the week – probably this weekend.

Instead, I started working on the annoying problem with the auto-completion on the address bar. While working on that, I figured out how to turn on a feature that I really like about IE (though a lot of people do seem to hate it <g>) – forms auto-completion :-) That was one of the few things I missed from IE though I’ve been using Scope as my default browser for ages – now even that is there :p The address bar problem didn’t turn out to be that simple however. I was able to figure out a way to modify the source for the IEAddress component that I was using so that I could toggle auto-suggest and auto-complete for the address bar on the fly but the results didn’t seem to be consistent all the time. I began to wonder whether the problem lay with the MS autocomplete API call or with the IEAddress component and so began working on a test application which would use the MS autocomplete API without using the IEAddress component – still working on it … Hopefully, that should provide some answers.

Incidentally, sinesolis did some great new icons for both Scope and Blog while I was away on vacation – thanks again for the great icons, sinesolis! So I included the new icons in Scope and since they are slightly smaller than the once that were there before (16×16 instead of 20×20), the toolbar is smaller and (at least to me ..) looks much better :-) I just need to get a few more things working and hopefully before the end of the year there will be a new version of Scope out – and about time too since I notice that the last release was sometime in July :p

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Posted by Fahim at 7:01 am  |  1 Comment

November 28, 2001

I finally managed to get Mozilla to compile yesterday after some digging around as to what might be the problem this time around – turned out that the path to the Cygwin tools had somehow mysteriously disappeared from my system environment since I last compiled Mozilla :p Of course, it took about the better part of a day to get Mozilla to compile at all because I ran into further problems – turns out that you can’t now compile just the Mozilla client since all build options try to build all the units for Mozilla embedding as well and one of the units is built around the MFC framework – and guess what? I don’t have MFC installed on my machine because I hate MFC! I had to dig through the make files and figure out what to modify so that I could build Mozilla without needing to install MFC on my machine.

You would think that I could get to work on Scope once I got through all that, right? Wrong! I had not installed all the extra Delphi components that I use for Scope since I installed XP on my machine and reinstalled everything and it turns out that I can’t get the embedded browser code to compile on my machine now – would things ever work around me? <g> I have a feeling that the problem lies with IE 6 since I can’t seem to import the type library for the MS HTML Object Library on my machine at all – or rather, the type library imports fine but I can’t compile the resultant Delphi code because there are a lot of errors in the code – hundreds of errors in fact and since the code is over hundred thousand lines long, the performance when trying to edit it with Delphi is abysmal. I finally gave up and was getting ready to go home when I realized that I could simply import the type library on another machine that doesn’t have IE 6 and use that but since I was already ready to go home, I decided to leave that for today :p

I watched “Roswell” on UPN and it just made me depressed … When the show began three seasons ago, I really loved it because it was a light story with a lot of excitement and very, very interesting characters. The story was about a group of teens – three of whom happen to be aliens in the town of Roswell, New Mexico and the others are their friends who learn that the three are aliens. The three aliens – Max, Isabel and Michael – had been stranded on Earth when their ship crahsed on Earth or something in the 50’s and they’d somehow come out of their ship in the 80’s as young kids and been adopted by people in the area (at least Max and Isabel were adopted – Michael somehow ended up with an abusive foster Dad …) I loved the first season because it was hopeful, about young love and had a lot of thrills and edge of the seat excitement. In the second season the characters began to change, they became more … adult, cynical, selfish and the series itself turned into something like a teen version of a soap opera.

The show was on WB at that time but WB was going to cancel it at the end of the second season but UPN bought it. The creators said at the time that now they’d be able to take the show in the direction they really wanted to but hadn’t been allowed to by WB and I had great hopes for the third season. But the third season has turned out to be even more adult and depressing. The hopeful young lovers from the first season (Max and Liz) have become a hopeless relationship and Max has turned from an idealistic, caring person to somebody who is utterly selfish at times. The only ray of brightness in the increasingly gloomy story lines had been Michael and Maria – their relationship had turned from a taunting, antagonistic one to a strong love and I enjoyed seeing how Michael changed.

Michael had originally been brash, uncaring and somewhat of a loner. He still is to a great extent but it was great to see him try to break out of his shell, become caring – if somewhat bumbling in his efforts to understand relationships – and strong. I guess I identify with Michael because he is somebody who is alone in a world full of strangers and he desperately wants to hold on to something that he can call his own – and up till yesterday that something was Maria. Yesterday they broke up …

Yes, here I am writing about a TV series as if it was something real :p But in a sense, it is real … Maybe a TV series (or anything created by any of us …) reflects the times and the conditions that it is created in and when everything around us is so bleak, I would at least hope for some brightness from the entertainment industry – but at least in the case of “Roswell” it is not to be … That is depressing …

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Posted by Fahim at 7:13 am  |  No Comments

November 27, 2001

Wow! The hints guide I did for “Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee” is climbing rapidly up my site access log charts :p For some strange reason (maybe because somebody submitted the page? <vbg>) my main page appears on Google searches a day or two after I make a post and let me tell ya, a lot of people seem to be searching for hints for Munch’s Oddysee. I am kinda happy that I can provide some sort of a service to these people – though I’m not that sure that I am indeed helping <g> since the hints for most of the first levels were written from memory and are kind of sketchy :p In fact, I had somebody write to me asking me for help with one of the earliest levels – the Mudokon Pens – and I realized that I had no information at all in my initial set of hints. And of course, by that time I couldn’t even remember what the level was about :p Fortunately, I have saved games for each level in the game and so I went back and played that level all over again and beefed up the hints for that level :-)

I did finally get back to doing some coding yesterday … A few days back Von had described the steps she’d taken before a data corruption occurred in Blog – I’ve had complaints of data corruption in Blog by several users but none of them could remember the steps that led to the problem. Thanks to Von, I was able to figure out where the problem was – it happened when you started a new entry (or even modified an existing one) and tried to delete it without saving the changes … I put in some code to prompt to save (which is rather superfluous actually :p) and if the user doesn’t want to save, the changes will be canceled. This should hopefully take care for the final point in Blog (I hope …) where data corruption can occur.

I was wondering whether to continue work on Blog but decided instead that I should actually go back to Scope – both because jugg has been hinting at the fact that a new version is long overdue :p and because I really do need to fix some of the most irritating things about the current implementation of Scope and get it working with the latest versions of Mozilla. In order to do that, I had to download the Mozilla 0.9.6 source (why do they keep on coming out with new builds instead of letting it stagnate for ages like me? <vbg>) since I had last downloaded the 0.9.4 source. I went through the usual hassles of extracting the tarball since some of the Windows archiving tools which supposedly support the TAR.GZ format still seem to have weird problems extracting it and then tried to compile it … Nothing! Or rather, the usual error message that I seem to get every time I try to compile Mozilla the very first time :p It never seems to fail! Even though I did get Mozilla 0.9.4 to compile fine and I have not made any changes to the system since then (not that I remember at least …), it just wouldn’t compile! I got tired of the hassles at that point and decided to put it off till another day :p

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November 26, 2001

They mentioned Icarus on the radio today while discussing something else and my thoughts went off on a tangential direction – I was trying to remember who Icarus’ father was because their story was one of the “myffic” stories (as one of Terry Pratchett’s characters calls it – he meant mythic BTW …) that I remember from my earliest childhood. It was in comic format and I can still recall the expression on Icarus’ father’s face as he held his son in his arms and wept after he flew too close to the sun and fell. I can still feel the pain in that look and perhaps that was one of the earliest moments in my life when I hated to see pain in others and wanted to do something about it …

Anyway, I thought for about ten minutes before I finally remembered his name – Daedulus! That whole trip down memory lane brought back all sorts of memories about King Minos, Theseus, the minotaur … all the old stories. Ah, there is nothing like a good myth, I tell ya :-)

I finished “Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee” early on Saturday morning and was really bummed because the XBox seems to have spoilt me for gaming on any other console :p And there isn’t any other game on the XBox that I really want to try out till “Azurik: Rise of Perathia” and that won’t be released till the end of this week. I do want to try out “Halo” (especially since sinesolis recommends it highly …) but I have a feeling that I will find it too tough for me – I never did too well at first-person shooters unless I had the cheat codes :p Speaking of Azurik, the name of the game always makes me grin because Perathia (pronounced with a long middle “a” as in cane) sounds a lot like a Sinhalese word “peraythaya” which means either a demon – rather, more like an imp … – or a very greedy person (a glutton). Hmm … written down that doesn’t look too funny but it does if you think of it in Sinhalese :p Wonder whether a Sri Lankan was involved in the game ….?

The e-mail worms seem to be back since I got a weird message today with an attached e-mail (but no warning from NAV mind you …) plus another e-mail from somebody or other in Thailand (I think….) – from a server that I never recall sending mail to – saying that a message I sent had a virus attached. I am not sure whether somebody is using my address or whether my machine is sending out messages due to a virus or trojan … there has been a lot of hard disk activity on my machine recently even when it was idling and I’ve been wondering about that … The way things are going, I’d be scared even to get online soon …

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Posted by Fahim at 7:49 am  |  3 Comments

November 24, 2001

I had a really pleasant surprise yesterday when one of the people who use my software sent me an Amazon gift certificate for $40! This is the first such gift I’ve received from anybody and it was indeed something pleasant and surprisingly gratifying just because of the fact that you know that what you do is appreciated by others :-) Von is a Blog user that I got to know a few weeks ago because she had a few questions for me – then I stumbled across her site while going through my site logs – and as I usually do – went over there and noticed that she was having some problems with setting up comments … I’d already walked a few people through the process and so I offered my help and we were able to get it working after some tweaking. I thought nothing of it after that till I received the gift certificate yesterday – so thank you Von :-)

In fact, Von’s gift made me think of putting up some sort of a Hall of Fame for people who have contributed back in some form or other. Because when I thought about it, I realized that Von’s gift was the first monetary contribution I’ve received, that there are a few more people who’ve given something back in their own way – there’s KuhnDog and Lyon Lym who host the mirror sites for me (they have to pay to keep their sites operating and they give me space on the servers free of charge), there’s sinesolis who’s put in his time to come up with some incredible icons for my apps as well as ideas about how to improve them, there’s John who’s done a lot to get me started with Delphi and continues to give advice and help and last but not least, there’s Jugg who always listens to my coding problems, gives advices, tests an app as soon as it’s ready and is basically a very good friend :-) So there are all these people who’ve given quite a bit to me and I feel that they remain unappreciated just because only I know of what they do – so I think I should put up a Hall of Fame for them and I’ll probably get started on it today … just as soon as I finish “Munch’s Oddysee” :p (I’m kidding of course – not about putting up the Hall of Fame, but about waiting till I finish the game <g>)

Speaking of “Munch’s Oddysee”, I spent another day yesterday playing the game and adding to the hint guide I’d started and while I thought I would finish the game by evening, I was proved wrong :-) Of course, I needed to take breaks in between to think through how to tackle a particularly tough problem and give my fingers a rest but still I can’t imagine how some of the people who claim to have finished the game in one night on Usenet could have done it – they must have been maniacs! (Or extremely smart – probably the latter since I’m no great shakes in the brains department <vbg>) One thing seems to be sure, a lot of people seem to like the Oddworld game guide I put up because I’ve already had over 70 hits! So I guess I’ll keep on adding to it :-)

I’ve added links to both the Oddworld guide and the Hall of Fame I was talking about earlier, on the sidebar so that they’ll remain there even after these posts have moved on … :-)

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Posted by Fahim at 5:57 am  |  No Comments

November 23, 2001

Played “Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee” most of yesterday – since I am fasting these days due to it being the month of Ramadhan, I didn’t even have to stop to eat :p The game is just too addictive! I would play a couple of levels, say I am going to stop now but then continue because I wanted to get through “just the next level” :p I did find myself stuck at a couple of places however and couldn’t find any resources online to help me out. In fact, about the only online guide to “Munch’s Oddysee” that I found was Sinjin’s but that seemed to be a very ambitious project and was still in the initial stages. However, the site was almost an empty page last week when I started playing the game and now it has quite a bit of introductory content, so it might not be long before the site is up. But till then, players looking online for a guide to “Munch’s Oddysee” are probably going to be out of luck and I didn’t like that :-) So I did a hasty hints guide (not a full walkthrough mind you ..) and put it up here since somebody might benefit from my experience :p

On other news, the XBox box I had on EBay (I don’t remember whether I mentioned this but since I decided to keep the XBox system, I decided to auction the box :p) went for around $130 – it was over $150 but somebody withdrew their bid – and then the person who bought it writes to me and says that he’s a kid and that he really wanted an XBox! Why can’t people read what is there instead of what they want it to be? The title clearly said that it was an Xbox box and I bet that he never bothered to read the description …. Ah well, guess that experiment in human logical thinking was a resounding success!! :p

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Posted by Fahim at 7:00 am  |  1 Comment

November 20, 2001

I had Tags:
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November 19, 2001

Well … I was going to leave the In fact, I found myself comparing and contrasting LucasArts’ “Escape from Monkey Island” against Oddworld and the former (while a great game and extremely funny), didn’t come off too well even though it is a port from PC. Monkey Island has a weird save where you have to begin with a saved game and then only save over it over and over again … and of course there is no way to reload a game except by restarting the PS2 … and those load times! Oh those load times!! Every scene in Monkey Island has to be loaded and you have a delay in between scene changes – as opposed to Oddworld where the loading occurred only when transitioning from game sequences to FMV … and even then, it was pretty fast!

I should also add that I find the hard disk to be a great extra. I didn’t have to buy a memory card and I can save gazillions of games on the hard disk without having to worry about running out of space. Coupled with the fact that it has a built-in ethernet port which would come in extremely handy if online gaming does ever take off, I am beginning to think that XBox is the way to go :p So I guess, I won’t be selling my XBox after all <vbg> Of course, one problem I see with XBox is the fact that it still doesn’t have enough games – and ones that interest me at that – at the moment. Only titles that I know of and am interested in at the moment are “Azurik: Rise of Perathia” and “Ego”, which is not supposed to be out at least till late next year (or is it the year after that?) If they can get a good library of games going (of the same quality as Oddworld), I think Microsoft has a pretty good chance in the console wars …

Speaking of the console wars, as I mentioned earlier, I went over to the local KMart early yesterday and they had a whole stack of GameCubes – must have been at leat 20, if not more. I was half tempted to get one but while “Pikmin” looks interesting, I really don’t find any of the GameCube launch titles all that appealing. And the fact that they had so many consoles at my local KMart – which normally doesn’t have enough of anything <g> – seemed to indicate that there won’t be a shortage and so it didn’t seem to make sense to buy one to put on Ebay :p I went back in the evening and I noticed that they’d sold almost all of their consoles but still had about five or six left … So I guess there are enough GameCubes to handle the demand – though I’m not really sure that is a good marketing tactic considering the demand for PS2 that was created basically due to the shortage of PS2’s last year :p

November 16, 2001

Yesterday for quite a bit of the day I had two next-gen gaming consoles in my car :p I know I said yesterday that I didn’t find the Xbox all that impressive but a friend from work came in and told me that he’d bought one early in the morning and then around lunch time he came back and told me that a Best Buy close to work still had some in stock. So I rushed over and bought one – they had one more left when I left :p Of course, the purchase was not for playing but as an investment since I immediately put the Xbox up on Ebay when I got back to work <vbg> Unfortunately, a lot of other people seem to have had the same idea because when I checked yesterday evening there were close to four thousand Xbox items on Ebay :-( Ah well, I can always return the Xbox to Best Buy if the auction doesn’t go too well :p

The other console in my car was my PlayStation2. I returned it to Circuit City yesterday and got a model SCPH-3001R from the KMart close to my place on my way back from work. I set it up and checked out the DVD playing stuff with the Sony remote and it all seems to work great! So I am really happy about that :-) I did find something curious though – I have an “Evil Dead II” DVD that I had purchased second-hand just last week and when I put that in the PS2, I would get the opening title and then nothing – just a blank screen! I don’t know if the DVD is damaged or if there are certain DVD’s that the PS2 will not play … and I don’t believe that this is a different region DVD either. I guess I’ll return the DVD to the shop this weekend but I’m curious as to whether it’s a problem with the PS2 or with the DVD. Guess I’ll do some digging today …

As far as my game goes, I got the first incarnation working to my satisfaction day before yesterday (I forgot to mention that yesterday …) and put it up on my sites. Now I need to start working on the next iteration where the alien ships will actually fire at the Earth. Just didn’t have the time yesterday what with all the Xbox stuff and what not but maybe today or over the weekend …

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Posted by Fahim at 7:44 am  |  2 Comments

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